Seventeen players in the Toronto Blue Jays organization have been assigned to the Ventura County Gulls of the Class-A California League, Gulls General Manager Jim Biby said Friday.
Don't expect the names to be familiar. In fact, only one will be recognized by those who follow major league baseball as avidly as Greenpeace watches whales.
Todd Stottlemyre, who is the son of former New York Yankee pitcher Mel Stottlemyre, will begin his first season of professional baseball after being selected in the first round of the secondary phase of the June, 1985, draft by the Blue Jays. Todd, 20, is a 6-3 right-handed pitcher.
Any number of the Gulls may become household names in a few years. Reggie Jackson, Mike Marshall, Jack Clark and many other major league stars honed their skills in the California League.
For now, though, the names may have a big-league ring to them, but the players are unproven.
Geronimo Berroa, for example, sounds like a bonafide-can't miss-big-time sure thing. And he hit .343 last season with a league-leading 22 doubles in 54 games. But Berroa, 21, played for Medicine Hat (Alberta, Canada) of the rookie Pioneer League, so all it earned him was a spot on the still-incomplete Gulls roster.
"I'll know the balance of the roster by early next week," Biby said. "I won't be positive who we have until they step off the plane. Three players I thought we'd get have been re-assigned already."
The Gulls will arrive in Ventura on Tuesday morning and will participate in light workouts Wednesday and Thursday. Ventura County opens at home against Reno on Friday at 1 p.m.
Berroa is one of six foreigners who will play for the Gulls. Pitcher Jose Mesa, second baseman Sandy Guerrero and third baseman Domingo Martinez also are from the Dominican Republic, infielder Oscar Escobar is from Venezuela and outfielder Bob Ducey is from Toronto.
Although he is only 19, Mesa is in his fifth season with the Toronto organization. He was signed at age 15 and has compiled a 26-31 record for three Blue Jay farm teams. Escobar, 19, was signed at 16 and led the rookie Gulf Coast League with 35 stolen bases in his first year. Last season, he hit .269 at Class-A Florence (S.C.).
"Escobar was a player I really hoped to get," Biby said. "He runs well and has a bright future."
Guerrero's father, Epy, is Toronto's director of Latin scouting. Sandy led Gulf Coast League second basemen in total chances, putouts, assists and double plays last season. He hit .288.
The infielder with perhaps the greatest potential is Eric Yelding, who is being converted to shortstop from the outfield. Yelding, 21, was Toronto's first pick (19th overall) in the January, 1984 draft. He hit .260 and stole 62 bases for Class A Kinston (N.C.) of the Carolina League last season and hit .309 and stole 31 bases in 67 games for Medicine Hat in 1984.
"Eric hits well and runs even better," Biby said. "He'll be learning a new position, but that's what the minor leagues are for."
Joining Berroa in the outfield will be Lucey, who played regularly for Florence of the Class A South Atlantic League last season, and 20-year old Darryl Landrum.
After leading the Pioneer League in home runs with 17 in 1984, Landrum set a South Atlantic League record by striking out 208 times in 453 at-bats last season. He hit 19 home runs and stole 19 bases.
Three catchers will join the Gulls--Pat Borders, Greg Myers and Tim Rypien.
Borders, 22, joined the Toronto organization as a third baseman, moved to first base in 1984 and will catch and play first for the Gulls. He has played regularly each of his four professional seasons and hit .260 with 10 home runs last season at Kinston.
Myers, 19, is another bright prospect, according to Biby. The 6-2, 202-pound left-handed hitter was Toronto's third round-pick in the June, 1984 draft. Myers, who is from Riverside, led all South Atlantic League catchers last season with a .989 fielding percentage.
Rypien, who also plays first, attended Creighton University before being selected by Toronto in the second round of the secondary phase of the January, '84 draft.
Willie Shanks, Steve Mumaw, Jeff Musselman, Todd Provence and Todd Wasilewski will join Stottlemyre and Mesa on the Gulls' pitching staff. Shanks, 25, advanced from rookie league to Syracuse of the Class AAA International League in 1984 and was 3-2 with three saves last season at Knoxville of the Class AA Southern League.
Mumaw and Musselman are 22-year-old left-handers who were selected in the June, 1985 draft. Provence, 20, and Wasilewski, 22, are right-handers who were picked in the June, 1984 draft. All four were drafted by Toronto.
Last season, Mumaw was 9-1 while splitting time at Bradenton (Fla.) and Florence, Musselman was 6-4 at Medicine Hat, Provence was 11-9 with an ERA of 2.84 at Florence and Wasilewski was 12-5 with an ERA of 3.70 at Florence.